People who compare their income with that of others are more likely to be depressed and less satisfied with their lives, a new study has found.
The study was conducted by Andrew Clark and Claudia Senik at the Paris School of Economics.
"Man may well be a social animal, but constantly looking over one's shoulder seems to make the world a less happy, and more unequal, place," the Telegraph quoted the authors as saying.
Economists found that 75 per cent of Europeans believe income comparisons to be important. Their study has claimed that poorer people are more likely to compare their salaries with those around them than the rich.
However, their analysis of a range of surveys found that employees who are obsessed by what their co-workers earn are less likely to be happy with their lives.
"The greater is the importance that people attach to comparisons, the lower they rank on different satisfaction scales, such as 'satisfaction with life as a whole', subjective general health, 'feeling of depression during the past week', as well as 'satisfaction with one's standard of living', 'satisfaction with job' and feeling that one 'gets paid appropriately, considering efforts and achievements'," the authors said.
Also, people who compare their earnings with their friends and family are said to be twice as unhappy as those who look enviously at their work colleagues' car or home.
The researchers believe this is because although workers may console themselves that they may one day earn as much as their manager, such a comparison is more difficult to make with relatives or neighbours who may have different careers.
A second study, carried out by Mary Daly and Daniel Wilson of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and Norman Johnson of the US Census Bureau, has found that suicide levels are higher in wealthier areas, suggesting that being surrounded by rich neighbours can make people so unhappy that they decide to end their lives.
The second study, presented at the Royal Economic Society's annual conference, matched death certificate data from the 1980s and 1990s with local income levels across America.
It found that the chances of someone killing themselves are higher in rich neighbourhoods, regardless of their own income.
"The likelihood of an individual dying of suicide rises with local area income (specifically, median income in the county of residence), even when controlling for individual own income, other important individual characteristics, and characteristics of their county other than income," the authors said.